Content Marketing Art of War, Second Edition | MIMA Summit 2013 Recap
Oct 17, 2013
The Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) has a lot to be proud of. Their annual conference — MIMA Summit — was earlier this week, and it was easily one of the best conferences I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of.
I never thought I’d say this about a conference… but, frankly, it was too short! There were simply too many great sessions offered to cram them all into one day. And even though I enjoyed each session I attended, leaving with new insights and action items, there were always at least two more offered at the same time that I wished I could’ve attended.
So first and foremost, thank you to Lauren Melcher and her incredible team for putting the entire event together. Thank you to Clinton Forry for inviting me to be a presenter in his track: Content Conversations. And thanks to Ashley Driste for the constant, timely and thorough communication about logistics.
Thanks as well to all the people who attended my session: The Content Marketing Art of War. It was exciting to see that many people interested in the topic, and I hope they all went away feeling inspired, enriched, curious… or all three. I’ve uploaded the presentation to SlideShare and embedded it below. That’s followed by a list of links of things I mentioned during the talk. And I’ve also included some take aways from the sessions I attended. Hopefully they will be of interest to others who couldn’t get to everything they wanted to.
1. Jay Baer’s book Youtility offers guidance on crafting “marketing so good, you’d pay for it.”
2. Managing Content Marketing by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute details the steps to getting started with content marketing. And it has great information on how you can use classic story-telling methodology to tell your brand story in all the varied pieces you create to fulfill your content strategy.
3. This article co-written by Jeff Bladt of DoSomething.org talks about why 1,000,000 views isn’t always a success.
4. And this blog post by Tom Webster outlines why content marketing works — arbitrage — and the conditions under which it won’t work any longer.
Notes From Other Sessions
Morning Keynote The opening remarks from Sarah Lacy were some of the best I’ve heard at an event. Riffing on the conference theme “The State of Change,” Sarah provided guidance on what has changed, what hasn’t and what (probably) never will in the world of marketing – from a journalist’s point of view. She made a compelling case for why art and editing are still a couple of the most valuable things an organization can focus on. Because quality is as important as ever in a world in which everyone can publish. The cream will rise to the top — in this case, excellent reporting and writing, with a unique voice and discernible point of view to spark conversation.
One of the things that has fundamentally changed, on the other hand, are the costs and barriers to publish. Layers of production and distribution have been stripped away for good. And with that, the need for “mid-career, six-figure editors” has also disappeared. The most valuable people to an organization are the passionate practitioners… the people who are working, learning, teaching and creating constantly. Regardless of medium. The lesson is that you can cut the time and editing process, but you shouldn’t skimp on cost; the cost of quality is just rooted in a different place now.
Breakout Session 1 – Content Conversations Margot Bloomstein was a perfect follow-up to Sarah’s kick-off, as she echoed the sentiment of quality experiences by explaining the principles of “slow content.” Quite simply: anticipation, discovery and delight take time to build. Using examples from Patagonia, Crutchfield and Fidelity, Margot explained how editorial style and structure, discovery and comparison, and long-form content can be used to slow people’s experiences down. And she pointed to measures of success proving that when people are interested, they will take the time with your content (people do read online!), and the brand connection will be better for the investment.
The biggest take-away for me: If we truly care about our visitors, fans and evangelists, we must respect the kind of content we are presenting to them. “Attention must be paid.” In terms of both the creation of content and experiences, and in what we demand of visitors.
Lunch Keynote Nate Silver‘s data-savant intelligence and quirky humor was spot-on for the event as he provided insight on how to use data well. Specifically, he mentioned the danger of “big data” is that there’s so much more information to look at, it’s harder to endure you’re telling the most objective story. As humans, we’re predisposed to be looking for signals; we don’t always know what “random” looks like. But we also have amazing powers of pattern recognition… if we’re trained to use them. So what we should actually be looking for is relationships within the multitude of signals. And we should be diligent in weeding the false positives from true signals.
He used Bayes’ Theorem as the basis for four things to guide us on data quests:
1. Think probabilistically. While certainty sells and reality frightens, we should always heed the margin of error when looking at predictions, or what we discern from data on our own.
2. Know where you’re coming from. Our own biases — and others — have an effect on how we interpret data. But if you understand those biases, you can use them to your advantage in questioning information.
3. Survey the data landscape. In other words: understand what makes data “rich” rather than just “big.” That includes a large volume of data, but also an understanding of the reliability of the inputs and whether the data was collected under a wide variety of circumstances.
4. Try and err. When learning the basics of anything, the growth curve will be steep, quick and often easy. The nuanced learning at the top of the curve is where to try and err the most; because that’s where competitive advantage is learned. In the words of _______, “err and err and err again, but less and less and less.”
Breakout Session 3 – Digital Workflow David Witt of WCG provided insight into the content supply chain. A few take-aways included:
– When thinking about the media mix — Paid, Earned, Owned and Shared — two are essential static (Paid and Owned) and two are dynamic (Earned and Shared), being spread and augmented over time.
– The idea that Facebook (and Instagram and Pinterest and other social media) are essentially a proxy for print. Think about the now famous Oreo post during the Super Bowl… it was essentially a print ad.
– A rule of thumb to spend 80% of your time creating content that will live where people already are, and 20% of the time building the content people will come to.
– It pays to sit at the front of the class. (David passed out a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups as he talked about the content mix they use to dominate markets… but they were gone before they had made it halfway through the room.)
Breakout Session 4 – Content Conversations Corey Vilhauer closed the day with a talk titled “Empathy: Content Strategy’s Hidden Deliverable.” Corey explained why the process of content strategy should be centered on empathy with the client (using Whitney Hess‘ definition: “Feeling the feelings of another with the greatest accuracy and effort.”). That includes not thinking that you have all the answers; that content strategy isn’t about answering questions in vacuum and coming back to the client with a big reveal. Instead, strategists should recognize that their greatest asset is that they know how to ask the right questions in an environment that allows for building answers — and strategy — in conjunction with the client.
Approaching our job in this way will result in a process that educates clients on how to use the strategy when we’re not around. It’s teaching a client to fish. A content strategy isn’t as simple as a box dropped on a desk on our way out the door that no one wants to open for fear of using it “wrong.”
There you have it. Recaps of the six sessions out of the 35 total. If you’ve done similar recaps — or posted your own presentations — I’d love to know about them in the comments so I can gather pearls of wisdom from all the other great sessions I didn’t get a chance to attend.
And if you haven’t gone to MIMA Summit before, you should absolutely put it on your schedule for next year.
Watching TV as a kid, I used to run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials. Those days launched me down a path that included layout and writing for the college paper; communications strategy for political campaigns; marketing strategy and graphic design for Gensler (a global design and architecture firm); and the implementation of new programming, animation and design techniques for Centerline. Today I specialize in content marketing strategy and building digital deliverables to execute those strategies. But it’s about more than just creating killer digital content. At Centerline, we help clients succeed in the digital marketplace using a three-pronged approach: strategic (message creation, brand strategy), tactical (design, development), and analytical (measurement and adaptation). This experience-tested approach allows me to build campaigns that are both well-designed and effective for clients like IBM, GE and National Instruments.